Issue #6 | Sept 2018
This quarterly newsletter keeps you informed about the work of the Collaborative and other organizations and institutions toward the goals of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . You can also follow progress on our website , on Facebook , and on Twitter
Save the Date: MA Food System Forum, December 12
The Collaborative will host the second annual MA Food System Forum on Wednesday, December 12, at the Doubletree Hilton in Leominster. Come hear presentations from food system organizations working toward the goals of the Plan , learn about the progress made by campaigns during the recent legislative session, and help build on successes as we all continue to work together toward a sustainable and equitable food system. Featured speakers will include Representative Steve Kulik, who is retiring at the end of this year after 25 years in the legislature fighting for Massachusetts farm and food system issues, and Kathleen Merrigan, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and long time champion of the local food movement.

Registration materials will be available in October – watch for announcements on our Facebook page , our website , and in your email inbox.
HIP Update: Budget success, technology challenges
Thanks to advocacy from hundreds of farmers, organizations, and advocates, the state budget for fiscal year 2019 includes $4 million for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). The program continues to provide fresh, healthy local food for families around Massachusetts, and more sales for local farms. As of the end of August, more than $6 million in incentives had been earned since the program began in April 2017, with $1.4 million of that in just the first two months of the current fiscal year (July and August).

The Collaborative has been hosting legislative leaders at farmers markets this summer to thank them for their support and give them an opportunity to see the program in action. “This program is smart policy making,” said Speaker DeLeo at the Revere Farmers Market on September 7. The Speaker added that it’s his role to look at programs to “see where there is a problem -- why does it seem so good? There’s got to be an issue somewhere ... And I have to admit I’ve looked into and studied this program for the last couple of days, and couldn’t find anything. It’s a great program.”

“We’re proud to partner with the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative and thank them for their work on behalf of our communities on this important issue,” added Speaker DeLeo.

Unfortunately, participation is outstripping resources again, and DTA has announced that the program will be suspended on November 21, with a resumption anticipated sometime in the spring. This is problematic for farmers, who planted crops in expectation of the program running without interruption, and for customers, who have come to rely on fresh food year-round. Eight new winter farmers markets were launched in 2017 thanks to demand brought on by HIP, and while SNAP households can still use their benefits to purchase produce directly from farmers while the program is suspended, they will not earn the matching incentives during that time.

At the same time, challenges have arisen concerning the wireless terminals used to process HIP transactions at farmers markets. The company that operates the terminals nationally announced it was going out of business in July, but a last-minute intervention by the state of New York staved off that crisis temporarily, ensuring that SNAP and HIP transactions can be processed on the terminals through February. A long-term solution is necessary, and DTA is working with the USDA, other states, and advocates to resolve the issue permanently so that HIP can continue to operate without interruption, and SNAP households can continue to use their benefits at farmers markets.
Other food system legislative news
Along with funding for HIP, Massachusetts’ FY2019 budget included an increase in the dairy tax credit, more funding for buy local organizations, and other important investments in food system programs. See details about the budget here .

The 2018 environmental bond bill was signed into law by Governor Baker in August, authorizing funding for programs like the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program, the Farm Viability Enhancement Program and other programs that support energy conservation, urban agriculture, and food safety. The bill also included significant revisions to the estate tax, which will help keep farmland in production, as recommended in the Plan .

At the same time, the Baker administration released its capital spending plan for fiscal year 2019, based on funds authorized by the 2014 bond bill. That plan includes: $10.2 million for all land protection programs under the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which includes the APR program; $350,000 for the Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program; $950,000 for the Farm Viability Enhancement Program; and others. Details are available here .
Survey: Farmers market prices often more affordable
As the growing season peaks and Massachusetts farmers harvest peaches, tomatoes, and dozens of other crops, a survey conducted by the Collaborative found that fresh produce is often less expensive when purchased directly from the Massachusetts farmers who grow it than it is at grocery stores. The survey recorded prices at 11 farmers markets and 22 grocery stores, all within five miles of the nearest farmers market. In most cases, comparable items were more affordable at the farmers market, with the statewide average price of a basket of 14 common items costing 25% less. The full survey results are available here .
Celebrate Food Day with the Collaborative
Join the MA Food System Collaborative in a statewide celebration of the food system on Food Day, October 24! Just two weeks before the election, help draw attention to all of the great work being done toward a sustainable and equitable food system so that our elected officials know that we care about the policies that affect what we produce and eat.

Farms, food businesses, farmers markets, buy local groups, food pantries, non profits and others in the food system are invited to participate in Food Day by showcasing their work to strengthen Massachusetts’ food system. Some ways to get involved include:
  • offering a public tour of your farm;
  • hosting a celebration at your farmers market;
  • having an open house at your food pantry;
  • hosting an event with a close partner - ex. a farm and a food pantry;
  • holding a private event with local officials -- Mayor, Select Board, Aldermen etc.; or
  • submitting an op-ed to your local newspaper.

The MA Food System Collaborative will help support and publicize your event. Questions about participating in Food Day? Contact Brittany .

Ready to apply to host an event? Sign up here
Candidates for governor offer perspectives on the food system
Every voter eats. Who gets elected matters to the food system, and we encourage voters to consider food system policy when casting their votes.

Elected state officials in Massachusetts set policies that directly impact how food is produced, processed, distributed, and marketed. They set annual budgets that determine how much will be invested in programs that support farmers, ensure that families don't go hungry, and promote locally produced foods. They impose regulations that can ensure equity in the food system or create further disparities, and pass laws that affect the sustainability of businesses that make up our food system.

The Collaborative posed a set of questions to the candidates for Massachusetts governor. Their responses are available here .
Building a food policy campaign
The Collaborative and the Conservation Law Foundation have published Cultivating Good Food Policy: A guide to advocacy campaigns for Massachusetts food system stakeholders .This tool is meant to help organizations and communities understand why policy matters to the food system, how to develop a policy request, and how to develop and implement a campaign to make the policy change happen. It includes step-by step instructions on topics such as building alliances, crafting messages, and communicating with lawmakers, as well as some case studies of recent successful campaigns.
MA local Food Policy Councils discuss successes, further collaboration
On September 12, the Collaborative facilitated a meeting of 14 representatives from local food policy councils around Massachusetts as part of our ongoing effort to help these groups network and further build their capacity to engage in food system work. Discussions included:
  • Developing Community Food Assessments, such as the one recently completed by Somerville.
  • Policy development and advocacy, such as the Worcester Food Policy Council’s recent work on Breakfast in the Classroom, urban agriculture, SNAP, and the increase in the minimum wage.
  • Sustaining a FPC through effective communication and network support, such as is being done by the Franklin County Food Council.
  • Efforts to increase tap water access and reduce sugary drink intake.
  • Possible collaboration to develop a program to address concerns related to race and equity at farmers markets.

The next meeting will be on Nov 29 in Greenfield. Please contact Brittany if you are interested in participating.
Food System Champion: Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Six million pounds of dogfish are caught every year in Chatham, the third largest fishing port in Massachusetts. While dogfish appears in popular seafood dishes such as fish and chips in England, this abundant species is not widely appreciated in the U.S. and is often overlooked by consumers. The fish gets used commonly as bait or processed into food for pets. As a result, fishermen have traditionally sold their catches on the international commodity market – at prices as low as nine cents a pound – providing no or little profit.

To change these market dynamics, several fishermen have formed the Chatham Harvesters Cooperative. With help from the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and others, the group has begun a pilot program with Red’s Best. The local seafood distributor buys dogfish at a fair price and produces fish nuggets and spicy fish strips for tacos or sandwiches. Red’s Best then sells these new products to a number of hospitals and universities, including Harvard University, that appreciate the option to serve traceable, locally caught fish. Demand for these fish products is growing, especially among public school districts.

To expand this partnership, the Cooperative is applying for a USDA Value Added Producers Grant. This would allow more fishermen to join the Cooperative to sell more dogfish to Red’s Best, which could then service more schools and institutions. The fishermen, distributor, processors, institutions, and their students and patients all benefit from this unique partnership, which keeps seafood sales local and enables Massachusetts residents to eat local, healthy fish. The program also helps to create more resilient coastal communities as “it promotes the traditional New England way of life,” says Amy MacKown of NAMA. “Fish that is caught by a local fishing company from the nearby ocean is being eaten in schools.”

Incentivizing dogfish fishing benefits the local ecosystem. Dogfish are abundant predators that can decimate the populations of smaller fish or fish that are spawning. “Putting pressure on the dogfish population takes the pressure off of other species that are not doing so well. It’s a win-win scenario,” says Amy. In the future, the Chatham Harvesters Cooperative hopes to focus on other underutilized fish, including whiting and scup.

This is one of several dozen profiles of MA food system stakeholders featured in the Collaborative's June 2018 Sustainability and Equity in the Massachusetts Food System: A Progress Report .
System-changing Tool: Municipalities’ role in the food system
Developed by the Collaborative – along with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and other partners – Local Food Systems: The role of municipal governments is designed to help town and city leaders and employees understand the impact that their planning and program decisions can have on the food system. Sets of questions tailored for planners, health agents, public works departments, and others will help them consider food system issues in their processes, and the document includes lists of resources to help connect them with stakeholder organizations for assistance.
MA Food system news we're reading
  • Meatworks, in Westport, will give farmers in southeast MA access to a thoughtful, local slaughterhouse
  • As dairy farms close, some hay farmers struggle to find customers.
  • More than half of North Shore Community College students are food insecure.
  • Read about dynamic work to improve the food system in Revere, Lynn, Lowell and other cities.
  • The MA Food Trust Program will help fund projects to make healthy food available in underserved communities

Want to keep up with food system news like these articles? Follow us on Facebook !
Upcoming Food System Events
Food System Job Postings
The Massachusetts Food System Collaborative promotes, monitors, and facilitates implementation of the Massachusetts Local Food Action Plan . We bring together nonprofit trade and advocacy groups, businesses, academics, policymakers, regulators, and consumers to advance recommendations toward the Plan's goals.
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative |